You wake to find yourself in an alternate universe much like our own, but our technology has advanced while our style of living has devolved. A mix between the renaissance and sci-Fi.
“The time is 10:30am. You have asked that I awaken you.” Serf’s voice, as I had programmed it, insisted gently.
“Thank you, Serf.”
“It is my pleasure, sir.”
Pleasure. It sounded like pleasure, but the orb-like surface of its head bobbed impassively. Still, what could it hurt to be kind?
“Yes, sir. Today, you have several appointments.”
I rose from the bed and stood in the UV bath, in the usual cruciform. I imagined I could hear the screams of millions of microbe societies, replete with relative millennia of histories, burning away in the hissing lasers.
“You are to meet with the Marquess of Bayview to discuss the approval of the use of her lands for the new Rose Theatre. This afternoon, you must inspect your landholdings, and select which projects you wish progressed overnight. You and the Countess are also asked to attend court early this evening, as the Magistrate of Milwaukee wishes to have his entire entourage in attendance as he signs the charter to abolish all human labor. And then, of course, your duel —”
I stepped out, and shivered in the manufactured breeze of the climate control.
“As you say, sir.” Serf held out my suitcoat and hose.
“For breakfast today, sir, Chef has initiated several warm choices, awaiting your decision.”
“Granola will be fine.”
“Chef insists that your dietary needs will be better served by a warm meal. OVERRIDE?”
“No, fine. I’ll have whatever option A is. Include an extra shot of espresso in my coffee.”
I powdered my legs and pulled on my hose, then dropped the jacket over a loose-fitting blouse. Stray powder covered the carpet in a snowy sheen for a moment, before the carpet nanites collected it, and swarmed like fruit flies to return it to the case, which chirped, “Waste not, want not.”
I took my snuffbox from the vanity, and used my thumbnail to pop it open. Suspended in air, the neti-snuff jumped to my thumb as I leveled it nearby, then raised it to my nostril. As my sinuses cleared, my mind became calm and empty, the insta-meditation granules performing their duty. For one flashing moment, I saw a vision of thousands of Serf Units laboring under a hot sun, before the medication wiped the image away in a Zen haze of acceptance.
“Remind me, Serf: for what offense do I defend my honor this evening?”
“My apologies, sir, I am unable to provide an answer on the subject of HONOR. Please rephrase the question.”
“Nevermind. It’s not important.”
In the mirror, I adjusted the rapier at my side, little more than a hilt with a stretched piece of lead to hold it in the scabbard, a symbol of my station and not of the violence to come. Serf fastened a rose to my lapel, and brushed my jacket with a microfiber pad.
“Sir looks dashing today,” Serf murmured, as he pushed me from my ready room. The dining chamber was filled with the smells of cinnamon, and warm apple. Serf tied a napkin around my neck like a bib, and scrolled through my iRSS feed as I ate my oatmeal.
“Top stories, World News: Olympian Jason Reed implicated in scandal over —”
“Politics: State of the War with —”
“Negotiations with Iran continue to fail, even as drones penetrate the palace in Tehran. Religious leaders cite the infidels’ use of machinery to neuter and weaken human fighters in the region as proof that they will be on the right side of history, having sided with God against this sacrilegious genocide.
Allied Leaders continue to claim the use of android and cybernetic soldiers as a moral victory over the inhumane emotional cost of human lives in such a barbaric exercise as war. Iranian Coalition forces continue to use guerrilla tactics against civilian targets, under the assertion that it remains their only option to fight back. Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia —”
“Where is the Countess headed today?”
“Other than her appearance at court today, the Countess has no appointments. Shall I have her accompany you?”
“No. Call the coach for Bayview, and tell the Countess I have already left.”
“Ley-D informs me that the Countess remains in the sitting room, awaiting your daily meeting.”
“I’m not going.” My voice had more gravel and more gravitas than usual, and the sound of it surprised me.
“Agenda includes —”
“Override. Authorization: u-l-t-7-1.”
“OVERRIDE ACCEPTED. Your coach awaits, sir.”
I stepped out of the climate-control onto a path meticulously maintained by a dozen or so Keep-R units, who busied themselves elsewhere as the hovering coach blasted eddies of sterilized dust into the air. I tried to remember what it was like to sneeze. A loss of control and brief euphoria. A sting in the chest.
As the coach whizzed into the transport tube, I turned off the heads-up display which showed me the map and countdown in seconds until I reached Bayview. Creating a new theatre, a place where human citizens could be engaged by live performers, had caught the attention of the hoi-palloi, but to allow in the omegas of the society? Even the merchant class had long since lost the ability to read or speak the Queen’s English, in favor of moji. What art could possibly appeal to all the classes? Even if I could convince the Marquess, I remained myself unconvinced of the utility of such work. Was I chasing novelty and notoriety, rather than altruistic expansion of the class system to include our lessers?
Imperceptibly, the coach came to a stop, and the chime as the door slid open startled me from my preoccupation.
The Marquess’ grounds were lavish, dotted with ever-shifting topiaries made popular with the elite by the Japanese Bonsai animators. A fad, but a beautiful one. Her Serf units bowed deference to me as I strolled through a colonnade of shiny, steel servants. Within myself, I cringed at the effort, but an outer facade of aloof indifference put me on equal ground with my betters. Negotiation required such disingenuous focus.
When the Marquess emerged from the earth via the hoverlift, like Venus in the painting, I bowed low, looking up at her under my brow. She offered her hand, and I kissed it.
“Though our meeting takes place on schedule, my Lord, your presence always surprises me with its pleasing affect.”
Affectation would be more appropriate, I wanted to say. Instead, I rose, and delivered a smugly confident, “Marquess.” Embracing the masculine propensity for laconism, I said nothing more, and received a warm smile and her arm in mine for the walk inside.